Rob Cross, Peter Gray, Shirley Cunningham, Mark Showers and Robert Thomas
This year’s Richard Beckhard Memorial Prize winner goes to the Fall 2010 MIT SMR article by Rob Cross, Peter Gray, Shirley Cunningham, Mark Showers and Robert Thomas entitled “The Collaborative Organization: How to Make Employee Networks Really Work.”
The authors conclude that senior leaders can reduce collaborative costs and network inefficiencies by understanding the broad patterns of employee interactions and what makes for effective internal employee networks. The technique of network analysis can help senior managers detect structural problems within their organization — such things as hidden logjams that slow the organizational network down or gaps that undermine strategy execution.
This work rests on considerable empirical data detailing various help-and-advise networks in 12 large organizations sampled across industries. Some of these networks display high levels of collaboration while others do not. The differences between them are notable, stark and highly suggestive of several strategically important moves IT managers might undertake to increase collaboration across units in their respective organizations.
Cross and his coauthors point out four critical ways that managers can work to improve performance: attaining benefits of scale through global collaboration, driving work force engagement and performance, aligning collaboration with external business partners and stakeholders, and minimizing network connectivity at points where collaboration actually fails to produce value.
The judges noted that a particular virtue of this article was “the elegant way the authors link network analysis to practical business challenges and opportunities.” Examples are integrated seamlessly, and the article provides expert guidance for CIOs and other business leaders who want to promote patterns of collaboration that allow their organizations to become efficient, innovative and engaging work environments.
This year’s panel of judges consisted of distinguished members of the MIT Sloan School of Management faculty: Schussel Family Professor and Chair of the MIT Sloan Management Review Erik Brynjolfsson, recently retired senior lecturer Cyrus Gibson, and Erwin H. Schell Professor of Management John Van Maanen.